But what was the cost?

by Russ Roberts on January 22, 2009

in Environment

The AP reports:

Cleaner air over the past two decades has added nearly five months to average life expectancy
in the United States, according to a federally funded study.
Researchers said it is the first study to show that reducing air
pollution translates into longer lives.

Between 1978 and 2001, Americans' average life span increased almost three years to 77, and as much as 4.8 months of that can be attributed to cleaner air, researchers from Brigham Young University and Harvard School of Public Health reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

Some experts not connected with the study called the gain dramatic.

"It shows that our efforts as a country to control air pollution have been well worth the expense," said Dr. Joel Kaufman, a University of Washington expert on environmental health.

How do you figure? To answer that, you'd need a measure of the expense. That number, and the alternative pleasures, delights and health benefits we might have generated from those dollars, is missing from the article.

I also love that phrase, "as much as." That means that 4.8 months was the upper bound. I wonder what the lower bound estimate was.

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